EVERY ethnic group has their own food culture. When you think of countries in colder climates, they tend to have rich, hearty fare. In areas near the sea, their specialties will inevitably contain some sort of seafood. When you think about it, what a person consumes on a daily basis says a lot about their personal preferences and taste.
What does the food that we eat everyday tell us about our culture, identity, and way of life?
Within the Bangsamoro, people may have similar delicacies such as tinagtag, lokot-lokot or jaa, beef kurma, and many more. We also have similar ties to the food of our neighboring countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia. This shows us that our cultures are interwoven with each other, and that we have more similarities than differences.
Do you ever ask yourself why certain foods or culinary traditions are so important to our culture? On an individual level, the food that we eat gives us memories of our family and community. For a certain celebration, certain food are prepared specifically for that event. We also have cooks in the family that pass down familiar recipes to the younger generation.
As we grow up eating the food of our cultures, it becomes a part of who each of us are. Many of us associate food from our childhood with warm feelings and good memories, and it ties us to our families, holding a special and personal value for us. Especially in our culture as Filipinos, there is a longing for a mother’s cooking whenever one is away.
There is more of a connection between food and culture than you may think. Food from our family often becomes the comfort food we seek as adults in times of frustration and stress. It is something that every person in the world shares, and it is a unifying topic. Who doesn’t love to eat their favorite food?
When we get sick, we eat the food that we want. On a personal note, bruwa or rice muffin is my favorite. My aunt, Babu Intan Ayunan, was an expert in preparing this delicacy. She uses duck egg, brown sugar and other ingredients to create this dish, and every time she prepares it she always tell us to be silent. As children, we knew not to make any noise so that the bruwa will be delicious.
Then, there is tapai or fermented rice. This has medicinal value - like a yogurt, aiding digestion - which is full of good bacteria. I like to have tapai for breakfast.
On a larger scale, food is an important part of culture because it teaches us so much about our identity. Our elders teach us the value of our identity through things such as language, social customs, and our local cuisine. Historically, food sharing is done as a way to bring communities together. We have a kanduli whenever a significant occasion occurs, and it is in during these events where we all end up breaking bread together.
I once heard that traditional cuisine “is passed down from one generation to the next... it also operates as an expression of cultural identity.” In the Bangsamoro, harmony is a vital trait in almost every aspect of life. Our food culture is a reflection of our roots from our Austronesian predecessors. Because food brings us together, we can use this as an effective tool for cultural expression and even dialogue.
When one starts to cook, flavours such as salty, spicy, sour, sweet, and bitter are used in a balanced way, and it is this harmony that creates a delicious dish. It is the same when we try to bring communities to agree with each other. Whether it is through dialogue, language, food, or a combination of all three, we would all be better off knowing more about each other.
As the world becomes more globalized, we can each learn a thing or two from each other by tasting food from different cuisines. Food is one of the cheapest forms of travel and cultural exchange, and in keeping an open mind to trying new things, we can appreciate aspects of different communities that we wouldn’t have otherwise.